Best known for his role as Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, Sean Bean is back in familiar territory with HBO’s Tolkien-esque Game of Thrones, based on the popular novels by George RR Martin.
Set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Bean portrays Lord Eddard ‘Ned’ Stark, who is ask by King Robert Baratheon to come south and help run his kingdom after the questionable death of his right-hand man. What ensues is a struggle for power, where everyone is deceitful and dangerous.
Can you tell us a bit about your character Ned?
He’s a guy who’s from the north of the land. He has a family. He’s a quite happily married man. He’s a hard, strong man who’s very loyal and vulnerable which is part of his downfall.
Would you call him the hero of the show?
Because the book is told through the point-of-view chapters, and all the major scenes dealing with Ned are through Ned’s point-of-view, did that help you find this character, as opposed to it being just a straight narrative?
It did, yeah. You tend to glean much more information about your character from what other people say about you, rather than how it’s described in the books. It was an interesting story for Ned because he’s on the downward spiral and he’s in a snake pit, surrounded by back-stabbers and corrupt people. It was interesting to read the book thoroughly, rather than just Ned’s chapters.
Is he the last noble, just man in this world?
At this moment in time, yeah. His honor and his loyalty is such that it brings about his downfall. Because he is so rigidly honorable and so loyal, that’s all he knows. Even though that’s a virtue, in Ned’s case, it’s his downfall.
Are there a lot of battle sequence in this for you?
Oh yeah. We choreographed them for weeks in advance, so we know exactly what we’re doing on the day and we can adapt it or improvise. That’s all real stuff, and that was hard because that was in Malta, where it was nearly 100 degrees and we were all covered in leather in fur, so we had ice packs on. It was good fun. It’s great. It’s exhilarating.
You did 15 months on The Lord of the Rings and you have 10 episodes a season of Game of Thrones. Does that compare at all?
There are comparisons. It was the other end of the world, where we were doing The Lord of the Rings, and we were filming in Northern Ireland for the majority of this. They’re very different stories. This is a very edgy story. Everybody is having to watch their backs. I think George [RR Martin] has created his own world, as did Tolkien.
Is the magnitude of the work similar?
Yeah, it is. It was for me, especially because, in The Lord of the Rings I was playing Boromir and I was only in the first one, basically. But, for this, it was quite intensive and I started off quite intensively in the first six or seven weeks, getting into the part. And it was squashed into six months, so I was doing the same amount of work, in half the amount of time.
Were you concerned about signing on to do a series for a longer period of time than a film takes?
I always prefer to work intensively on something and then move on to something else, even though they are marvelous books and marvelous pieces of work. I prefer not to get stuck in something that takes five or six years of my life.
On the internet you were the consensus for the role by the fans of the book. Does that add additional pressure knowing that all these people hang their hopes for this series on you?
Yeah. That’s quite a responsibility. Thanks for letting me know! Obviously I was delighted when I first met David and Dan and we would discuss this, and having read the book, and I found the book very exciting, very luxuriant, very dangerous, very edgy, very sexy, and that’s very flattering. I’m very flattered that I was chosen to play this part.
Having been in Lord of the Rings and now this, were you worried about being typecast?
It’s a good thing to be typecast, isn’t it? It is similar to The Lord of the Rings, its size, its quality, its magic, its danger. I happen to enjoy playing those kind of roles with riding horses and swinging swords and having fights and wearing wigs and growing beards, even though I don’t first thing in the morning when it takes you about three hours to get ready.
I do have an affinity to that kind of role, and I think the good thing about Lord of the Rings, admittedly, there was three films and they thoroughly researched it, and it was very well-replicated on screen. But with what George has created, it’s a very different world. Goes on much, much further and much longer, and there’s many more twists and turns, but I certainly enjoy this genre, if that answers your questions.
Lord of the Rings was quite epic in its production scope. This seems like it’s got the same epic fell about it, but with slightly less resources, I would think. Does that affect you as an actor?
I didn’t find that it affected me at all. I think the amount of production value that was put into Game of Thrones was incredible, and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen on any other production, including Lord of the Rings.
I was very proud to be part of it, but I was absolutely impressed by the detail, the sheer size of it, the craftsmanship in the studio, the sets. Everything was so detailed, so vast; it was a lot of work. It was like working on a big feature film every week.
There are ten episodes to start with, but each of those ten, to me, felt like a hefty feature film. I think we really established a grand size, the fact it’s been done by HBO, you’re in good standing. You got good people behind you.
It’s an edgy, sexy, violent, dark, brutal piece where nobody’s safe, so many twists and turns, and the characters are so well drawn, I think everybody who sees this movie is hopefully fascinated by what we’ve achieved.